and welcome back to part 2 of this report on my short trip to the US East Coast this fall. (Part 1)
After a fun week (9 days, in fact), full of catching up with friends and other activities, it was time for me to return home as for the first time in over a year, classes at my German university were about to start.
For Friday I planned to fly up to New York only, arriving there around noon leaving me with more than a full day to spend in the city, as my flight homeward bound was only departing Saturday at 7pm.
This time, a flight to Newark had been cheaper than the connection to LGA, so I booked that route on United Express. My flight left RDU at 10:45, so I didn’t have to get up too early. I set my alarm to 7:30, took a shower and packed the rest of my things before leaving the house at 8:30 with my friend who volunteered to drive me. After stopping to grab some breakfast on the way, we arrived curbside at RDU’s Terminal 2 at 9:10.
On the airport road
The architecture of Terminal 2 was supposedly inspired by the rolling foothills of the Appalachian mountains, about an hour and a half west from the Triangle area
Curbside where my friend dropped me off
After having said goodbye, and having made plans for my friends to come visit me in Germany, I headed inside, checked my bag at UA’s counters and then headed over to the security checkpoint. TSA took about 15 minutes to clear, but I was airside around 9:30, with 1:15hrs to spare before departure.
The wavy lines of the exterior design continue inside the departure hall
Flight information display listing departures after security and some more architecture
Having had a coffee and breakfast already, I just walked over to my gate, D12, and waited the remaining 45 minutes until boarding began. I really liked the screen that UA had up, displaying such things as the seatmap and upgrade list, but also a weather radar for the destination and, very helpful for avgeek me, the aircraft’s registration.
Our departure gate and some artwork looking across to the opposite gate
We began boarding at exactly the indicated time of 10:20am and it was concluded very quickly after I was on board – doors closed only 13 minutes later!
N730YX as seen from the jetbridge
18/10/2019 – United Express flight UA3741 (operated by Republic Airways)
RDU – EWR
Scheduled flight time
- 10:45 – 12:29 (1hr 44min)
- 11:04 – 12:14 (1hr 10min)
- 10:41 – 12:19 (1hr 38min)
- Embraer E175(LR) (N730YX), 4.0 years at time of flight
- 20A, Window, Economy
The cabin of this new generation E175 was pleasant, featuring the same seat design that UA has on their 777s too. Everything seemed rather fresh. The legroom was incredible – I think that I’ve never had more space for my legs in an economy seat before. Check out the picture! The big window was also very welcome, as the weather outside was gorgeous so I was expecting some great views (lots of pictures following!).
Legroom - the fingers on my hand were spread out, I measured them at home so it must have been around 5 inches / 14cm from my knee to the seatback in front
Looking outside from 20A
Everything was great until this point – after a quick safety demonstration we pushed back ahead of scheduled departure (at 10:41) and began our taxi swiftly after. Then however, we had to pull over at a holding pad ahead of the taxiway bridge over to our departure runway 05L for almost 15 minutes. Apparently the reason was ground traffic at RDU, but only one plane came across the bridge that entire time. Oh well, we were still expecting an on-time arrival.
Finally, after having been released and crossing the bridge, it was our turn to take off into the clear fall skies at 11:04 local time.
It was an amazing day for flying with plenty of great views.
Finally crossing the taxiway bridge over to 05L
Racing past Terminal 1, where the only user currently is Southwest
Climbing out: The currently under construction runway 05R/23L
The city of Durham in the distance
Falls Lake and the dam carrying I-85 across it
Already over Southern Virginia now
We took a slight right turn right after departure, maintaining that course for a while flying into southern VA, then passing RIC before correcting a bit more to the right to pass DC and Baltimore on the southeast. Views there were amazing, barely any clouds were in the way and I managed to spot pretty much all major landmarks in DC from our cruise altitude of 27,000 feet. Around that time, the inflight service was conducted and I got a water and some Biscoffs.
Marine Corps Base Quantico and the Potomac River
The nation's capital in plain view, the airport in the front is Andrews AFB
The Chesapeake bay close to what I believe is Annapolis, MD
Baltimore and its harbor, BWI can be seen near the left-hand edge of the image
Shortly after, at 11:49 cruising NE of Baltimore, our descent was announced and around the same time, some clouds started building up below. The captain advised that we might encounter a bumpy ride, as there were gusty winds in the NY area, but it never got too bad. Finally, above central New Jersey, we broke from the clouds again, revealing another range of great views on the way down. Without having hit any real bumps, we touched down on runway 04R at 12:14, followed by a 5-minute taxi over to our arrival gate C86.
Somewhere over Central Jersey
Increasing urban buildup as we get closer to EWR
Short finals over Elizabeth, NJ
Arrived at Newark, with a company A319 taking off from the parallel runway
A lot of United here
After deboarding, I hurried to the baggage claim and, after having waited a couple of unnecessary minutes at the wrong claim (we were only informed of the change after ~10 minutes), I picked up my bag, headed up to the AirTrain and managed to connect to a North East Corridor train without any wait at 1pm. It took the train only 23 minutes to get to Penn Station, and even though my hostel was in Long Island City, I made it there another 20 minutes later by subway – 45 minutes from Newark to Queens seems like a good connection to me!
A last view back on my plane parked in sunny but windy Newark
On the AirTrain to the NJ Transit train
I dropped off my bag there and then headed out to meet another friend who was currently in NY too. We spent the rest of Friday and most of Saturday together before it was time for each of us to head home.
Some random snapshots from New York in fall
My friend caught an earlier flight to RDU, while I had a bit more time left for mine to FRA via IAD.
I ended up roaming Downtown Manhattan until around 3:45pm, before taking the (1) -> (3) -> (7) subway to my hostel in LIC. There I picked up my bag and then took the (R) to Jackson Heights – Roosevelt Ave to connect onto the LaGuardia Link bus, which dropped me off curbside at Terminal B at 5:10pm, around 2 hours before my flight.
The newly renovated WTC-Cortlandt station on the 1 train
Curbside at LGA Terminal B
I headed inside to the UA check-in desks, dropping off my bag and having it checked all the way through to FRA.
After that, I went over to the security checkpoint, where a class of school kids had just gotten in line before me, so it took over 20 minutes to clear. I also lost one of the earpieces on my headphones, so all in all not a great experience (meant I had to use the cheap ones provided by UA later).
To make up for that, once airside I treated myself to a burger and a beer at Shake Shack. Flying out of the new Terminal B was also a treat in itself, so that helped. I’m a big fan of how the renovation turned out.
UA desks at LaGuardia
The newly renovated Terminal B, featuring an indoors garden, a bright and airy design and lots of big, spotter-friendly windows
My plane pulling into the gate
Boarding began ahead of the indicated time at 6:45pm and was concluded within 15 minutes. This CRJ was so small, I could barely stand up straight inside and I bumped my head on the door during boarding.
Entering the plane - maybe I should have watched the height of the door instead of taking pictures here
19/10/2019 – United Express flight UA6367 (operated by Mesa Airlines)
LGA – IAD
Scheduled flight time
- 19:15 – 20:44 (1hr 29min)
- 19:37 – 20:20 (43min)
- 19:26 – 20:23 (57min)
- Bombardier CRJ-700 (N515MJ), 16.1 years at time of flight
- 21D, Window, Economy
The legroom on this flight was rather tight, but tolerable for the short stage length. Also, upon the “boarding completed” announcement, the aisle seat next to me was still vacant, so that was a nice additional treat. However, while boarding was announced to have been concluded at 7pm, the door remained open for another 20 minutes. During this time, one engine was started up already. This seemed unusual, but I suspect there may have been an issue with air conditioning or ground power, as the cabin was also very hot.
Pushing back, with one engine already running
Finally, after the door had been closed, we pushed back at 7:26pm and began taxiing 5 minutes later. The second engine was started up only during taxi out again, and being #2 in line for departure, it was our turn to take off from runway 31 at 7:37pm.
Taxiing out to runway 31
Our departure route took us over Rikers Island, before making a short right turn, followed by a long left hand turn bringing us deep into Northern New Jersey (west of the EWR traffic flows) and then heading down to Dulles over eastern PA and northwestern MD at a shallow cruise altitude of just 20,000 feet. A quick drink and snack service was performed (I got the famous stroopwaffel this time) about 10 minutes into the flight and lights were kept off for the entire duration again (like on the Delta CRJ to RDU the week before).
Rikers Island right after our westbound takeoff
We already began descending just 20 minutes after departure again and slowly worked our way down for an arrival from the north, landing on IAD’s runway 19L at 8:20pm. After having taken the first exit at a very high speed, the taxi over to our arrival gate was swift, and we parked at C22 just 3 minutes later. An interesting observation: One of the engines was again kept on through the opening of the boarding door and the first minutes of the deboarding process.
Already on final approach into IAD
Arrived at the gate
Once inside the terminal, I found out that there were no such things as windows, so I just walked over to C3 from where my flight to FRA was supposed to depart from.
Once at the gate, they were calling passengers for document checks, and since I had connected to IAD, I walked over quickly (low-key also hoping to get my receipt-style BP replaced with a nicer one, to no avail however).
I’m not a big fan of the C concourse at IAD, the near total lack of windows made it feel very boxed in and since I had already eaten at LGA I eventually just took a seat and waited for boarding, glad that my connecting time here was considerably less than the 2.5 and 4 hours I had had the previous week at LGA and YYZ, respectively.
Luckily, boarding began on time, although it was a slightly unorderly again (I’m going to blame this on the large number of German passengers – we seem to be among the only nations incapable of grasping the concept of boarding zones). Also contributing was the fact that this 777 was pretty much fully booked.
While for the longest time before the plane had been indicated as having the old configuration, the day before it turned out to be another one of UA’s refurbished planes, like the one I had been on in January, featuring their new Premium Plus, the Polaris business cabin and a 3-4-3 configuration in Econ.
Boarding line at gate C3
19/10/2019 – United Airlines flight UA932
IAD – FRA
Scheduled flight time
- 22:20 – 12:10+1 (7hr 50min)
- 22:42 – 11:56+1 (7hr 14min)
- 22:23 – 12:13+1 (7hr 50min)
- Boeing 777-222(ER) (N788UA), 22.3 years at time of flight
- 41L, Window, Economy
Despite now featuring the narrower seats, I’m still a big fan of the cabin refurbishment on those 777s. This one looked as fresh as N791UA had when I flew it to O’Hare in January, even though both are over 22 years old, with line numbers still in the double digits. The legroom was very good again, though slightly less generous than on the E175 the day before.
The economy cabin during boarding
Legroom and a cabin view from my seat: Once again I was seated only one row behind an exit, this time the 3R door
The IFE was once again impressive, I actually counted the number of movies and got to around 230. A similar number of tv show episodes was available, so I definitely wouldn’t get bored.
Doors were closed at 10:10pm and we pushed back another 13 minutes later. I tuned in to channel 8 hearing us get our taxiing instructions, which we began following at 10:28. I really liked this feature and it stayed available throughout the flight (unless the map which glitched out about an hour in).
A 787 pulling into the neighboring gate
After a somewhat lengthy taxi and holding short for 3 departures, it was our turn and we lifted off into the dark night skies over Northern Virginia at 10:42pm from runway 30. After a right turn we were set on a course that had us leave behind the mainland rather quickly, having flown out toward the sea over Maryland and Delaware, before hugging the coast again briefly at eastern Long Island, Cape Cod and Nova Scotia, sending us off on a rather southern TATL course on an initial altitude of 33,000 feet.
Departing IAD and some views of nightly NoVa
Dinner was served about an hour into the flight and was rather tasty even though it looked slightly questionable at first glance (smaller portion size than on AC, though). After that, the cabin was dimmed and passengers were asked to lower their shades, as the sun would rise rather soon given our late departure. Since I’m notoriously unable to sleep on planes, I never even tried aside from half an hour of resting my eyes. Instead I watched some tv shows. Moreover, it was already around 7am German time by the time the dinner service and cleanup was concluded, so I figured I’d do my best to adjust my body clock quickly given that my first classes were already the following day.
Dinner service aboard UA932
About 1:45hrs out, just as we approached Ireland, the cabin was slowly awakening, so I dared to open my shades for a bit. Breakfast was served shortly later. While it wasn’t much, it takes my prize for the most adequate and tasty breakfast I have received so far: A nice and warm croissant roll alongside some jam and a surprisingly big pot of yoghurt – good choice, UA!
And the breakfast service, less than 5 hours later
The clouds below cleared up over Southern England and then we headed into Central Europe over Belgium. By the time we had reached the Belgian-German border the descent from the final cruise altitude of 39,000ft was already being initiated. After circling around FRA and the Rhein-Main area on the north for our downwind approach leg, we turned base over the city of Hanau for an arrival on the rain-wet runway 25R at 11:56 local time.
The Coast of the English channel
Already surrounded by clouds during descent
The "twin cities" of Mainz and Wiesbaden, separated only by the Rhine river and both capitals of their respective German states
FRA as seen from the northwest
First views of the city of Frankfurt during the downwind leg
Turning over some wind turbines to get ourselves established on runway heading
And "Mainhattan" comes into view again, this time much closer but from the south
A faint rainbow on short finals
Vacating the active after 7 hours and 14 minutes in the air
What followed was an almost 20-minute taxi from the arrival runway to a hard stand outside Terminal 2, followed by another 15-minute bus ride back to Terminal 1. From the bus stop to passport control and the baggage claim it took another 10 minutes on foot – by now I understood the rather intense hatred FRA sometimes gets on A.net!
An AC 787-9 passing by as we finally reach our parking position
Positive side effect of remote stands: Being able to truly appreciate the size of this 777!
Adding the wait at the baggage claim, it had taken me almost an hour from landing to getting landside, where my parents luckily picked me up. This way, at least I didn’t have to go through the hassle of waiting for a train on top of all of that.
Other than that, UA continued to perform well in my opinion, on my flights with them. I would count myself to the camp of voices that currently see them on the rise. (And it obviously won’t change my preference for FRA as my departure airport of choice – just too well located and its connectivity is unbeatable!)
Thank you for reading and congratulations for making it through all of this!
I hope to be back again soon with an interesting report, although at the moment I don't have any flights booked :/